— How a small nonprofit can make a big difference —
Ballona Creek Renaissance's Vision for LA
May 2, 2023
Issues like plastic use and environmental pollution can sometimes make us feel hopeless, but speaking with Deborah Gregory and Sandrine Cassidy from Ballona Creek Renaissance left us inspired and motivated. They shared with us the exciting work they're doing to support LA's watershed, increase the city's green spaces, and make our community plastic-free.
N2N: How do you think non profits are important to LA’s future?
Deb: The more work we do through Ballona Creek Renaissance the more we see that the city leaders need on-the-ground advocates to build community backing when implementing policies. They know what causes we support and come to us for environmental issues that are specific to our area. For example, we are currently supporting a group called Move Culver City that promotes automobile alternatives, like biking and mass transit. This is directly aligned with our goals of decreasing emissions from idling cars and increasing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
N2N: What are your hopes for the future of LA?
Deb: Our list includes: greater safe biking infrastructure immediately, enhanced green spaces/city trees, strict codes against artificial turf, reinforced blower bans, and implementation of zoning revisions, which include strict green buffers around the Ballona Creek (no new development on un-built land). I am hopeful that the city of LA can effect change quicker moving forward.
An important missing link is the connection between the City Council and the all-volunteer Neighborhood Councils. The intention in setting up the NC’s was great, but the delay in reaction and the large volume of information in such a large city seems to prevent them from addressing the neighborhoods’ needs in a timely manner.
N2N: How is BCR helping LA become more sustainable and community-oriented?
Deb: Ballona Creek Renaissance received a grant of $50K a few years ago with the intention of removing a large area of asphalt from Stoner Avenue Elementary School (an LAUSD school that abuts one of the tributaries to the Ballona Creek), and replacing it with a native learning garden. This year, the design and construction drawings were completed and the LAUSD team met with us on the property. It was a very positive interaction! We are also pushing to add median trees in this same area. I have had many community members guiding me towards success for both of these particular greening projects, including the Nature Nexus Institute, Tree People, LA Conservation Corps, and our volunteer landscape architect Ryan Drnek.
Sandrine: BCR also supported The Ocean Cleanup’s Interceptor pilot project, which launched in Ballona Creek last November and has been collecting trash better than expected. The County has shared that after just one rain storm this past winter, the Interceptor collected +11 tons of trash! We are also continuing our policy work in Culver City with more stringent bans on plastics.
N2N: What are some of your favorite parts of working in the non profit world?
Deb: I am personally very project-motivated! Our group enjoys offering the 5-10 cleanup events annually and diverting up to 3 tons of trash from going into the Pacific/Santa Monica Bay, but we also look for tangible projects that leave our mark behind for future generations to benefit from. The greening projects, our educational outreach to schools, and engagement with the cities on policy change are all so rewarding when they are enjoyed and appreciated by so many community members!